Grace Wells was born in London in 1968. Formerly an independent television producer, she moved to Ireland in 1991. Her first book, Gyrfalcon (2002), a novel for children, won the Ellis Dillion Best Newcomer Bisto Award, and was an International White Ravens’ Choice. Other publications for children include Ice-Dreams (2008) and One World, Our World (2009). Her short stories and poetry have been published widely and broadcast. She reviews Irish poetry for Contrary, the University of Chicago’s online literary journal, is a freelance arts administrator, and teaches creative writing. When God Has Been Called Away to Greater Things (Dedalus Press, 2010) is her first collection of poems.
For Everything Which is Infinite
In Halloween dusk we came. Small witches had gathered in the campo by the church of Mary of the Miracles. Mist reigned in the lagoon. We moved into blue November’s gilt mosaic, bowed by the Byzantine, humbled before icons. A decade in Europe’s last dark place had put out my eyes. I had forgotten beauty.
You led the way, Torcello, Carpaccio, Bellini — each tile a glint on the path. You gliding us down the Grand Canal: the Gritti Palace, the white marble of the Guggenheim. Slick, black gondolas teaming turquoise water. You, birthing me back to life.
My task was to navigate our thoroughfare, our moth-flutter at windows, the weave through merchandise, diamante and velvet, shot-silk and brocade, our studious pauses with book-sellers; I pulled us on, in, deeper into the old maze.
Let me live here, I prayed, in these streets: my own flowers by the door, laughter and wine and work, someone practising the piano in a room nearby. Let me live here, I said and let go your hand to find my future street. I could have walked forever, beguiled, inwardly singing; charting the labyrinth; in the heart of it paused beneath a lit window: a woman’s smile, the fan of cards, a hand drawing out the ace.
Aşure is the Turkish name given to the last dessert
Mrs. Noah made before boarding the ark. Because
she was emptying her shelves one final time, it
contains an amount of everything.
Let me grate almond for you this night.
While gulls wheel their floodlit vigil above the Blue Mosque
let me shred pistachio green as limes from the Bazar.
Let me rub coconut to powder. I will take raisins crated in Tarsos,
yellow sultanas by the handful.
Grant me the İznik bowl I forbade you buy,
for it alone could hold this night, this Aşure.
Let me empty these cupboards the way Mrs. Noah
emptied hers that last night before the rains came.
Baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar.
Clove against toothache, mint for digestion,
thimble of brandy to ease our grief.
The light is low in this room. Soft brown
sugar. Nutmeg. Scent of cinnamon on my skin.
I will rasp orange rind, stir a syrup
thick with corn flour, arrowroot, gellatine;
cut an apple sideways to reveal its star.
Mrs. Noah took chick peas, the last rice, last
scrape of pearl barley, so who would notice
the salt from these tears? Let them fall
as I beat egg white, whip cream, fold in flour.
Jet bead of currant, maron glacés, crystal ginger,
nothing too good for this night, this Aşure,
so if there is a wail, a keen in the mouth
tart as lemon, let it be the morning call to prayer,
for they are laying you in the best sheets, my love,
your boat is leaving, everything ship-shape
and ready, every last thing prepared.
from When God Has Been Called Away To Greater Things
(Dedalus Press, 2010)
Order When God Has Been Called Away to Greater Things.